What Was the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, As Seen in Mars Red?

A sense of dread has always hung over the protagonists of Mars Red—as vampires pressganged into service by the military to kill rogue members of their own kind, it’s only natural—but their situation takes a turn for the nightmarish in episode 6. Out of nowhere, a massive earthquake razes the city to the ground in less than five minutes and their way of life as they know it collapses before their eyes. As this anime is set in 1923, this cataclysmic event is none other than the Great Kanto Earthquake that destroyed Tokyo and several surrounding areas in real life almost 100 years ago. But what actually happened on that day, and how does Mars Red interpret the disaster and fallout in its own universe? Let’s take a closer look...

The History

At 11:58 am on September 1, 1923, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck the Kanto plain. Much of the region was demolished and over 100,000 people died from falling rubble, firestorms, landslides, and a subsequent tsunami. It took years for cities to rebuild, during which time over 1.6 million citizens were left homeless and the law of the land was in shambles.

Shortly after the quakes hit, police began to spread baseless rumors that “Korean malcontents” were taking advantage of the chaos by performing acts of terrorism and should be killed for their misdeeds. This whipped both the authorities and vigilante groups into a frenzy, and at least 6000 Koreans were killed in the three weeks following the disaster. The government even used the situation to covertly assassinate political dissidents and continue to deny/minimize the massacre to this day.

Mars Red’s Interpretation

After the initial shock of the earthquake in Mars Red, Kurusu wanders around the wreckage in a daze and tries to search for the rest of the vampire unit. As citizens try to get their bearings and survive in this new reality, rumors begin to circulate that the terrifying vampires they’ve heard so much about lately are increasing in number and will go after anyone who doesn’t take the special vaccine that the government is distributing. Kurusu quickly recognizes the “vaccine” as Ascra—an artificial blood substitute that turns humans into vampires—and surmises that the lieutenant-general he once trusted with his life is purposefully creating more vampires to thin out the population and show the rest of the world how effective his own super soldiers are.

The quake is treated as a traumatic event for everyone in the story, marking the point at which they realize how small and insignificant they are in the greater scheme of things. The police-sanctioned (and incited) massacre of innocent people transformed into vampires by the fake vaccine clearly echoes the treatment of Koreans during the real-life aftermath of this disaster, as well as the xenophobia directed at Chinese people during the coronavirus pandemic. It almost feels like a direct call out to the Japanese government to acknowledge the Kanto massacre already.

Final Thoughts

Mars Red is an anime with no shortage of important things to say, and its depiction of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake pulls no punches when it comes to tough truths. We’re interested to see where else this anime goes with its contemplative story and melancholic themes, but for now, all we can do is wait to see what happens next!

What did you think of our overview? Had you ever heard of the Great Kanto Earthquake or the Kanto massacre before? Do you think Mars Red’s depiction of the events was thought-provoking? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!

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Author: Mary Lee Sauder

After the hard-hitting East Coast lifestyle hit me a bit too hard, I started pursuing my passion as a writer in my cozy home state of Ohio. Aside from that, I spend my time cooking, cosplaying, collecting anime merch, and being an improv comedy actor. I also love sneaking alliterations and stupid puns into my writing, so be on the lookout for them! 😉

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